In this paper we present a theoretical and numerical study of the growth of linear disturbances in the high-Reynolds-number and laminar compressible wake behind a flat plate which is aligned with a uniform stream. No ad hoc assumptions are made as to the nature of the undisturbed flow (in contrast to previous investigations) but instead the theory is developed rationally by use of proper wake-profiles which satisfy the steady equations of motion. The initial growth of near wake perturbation is governed by the compressible Rayleigh equation which is studied analytically for long- and short-waves. These solutions emphasize the asymptotic structures involved and provide a rational basis for a nonlinear development. The evolution of arbitrary wavelength perturbations is addressed numerically and spatial stability solutions are presented that account for the relative importance of the different physical mechanisms present, such as three-dimensionality, increasing Mach numbers enough (subsonic) Mach numbers, there exists a region of absolute instability very close to the trailing-edge with the majority of the wake being convectively unstable. At higher Mach numbers (but still not large-hypersonic) the absolute instability region seems to disappear and the maximum available growth-rates decrease considerably. Three-dimensional perturbations provide the highest spatial growth-rates.